THE Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC) will boost its aging fleet with 65 new buses from China this year, with the first of two batches expected to arrive next month.
Responding to one of many questions from the Joint Select Committee on Land and Physical Infrastructure on the PTSC’s operations, chairman of the corporation Edwin Gooding yesterday said the first 35 buses will arrive in the country next month and the remaining 30 in September.
Of the first batch, 25 are ready for compressed natural gas (CNG), while the ten that will use diesel will be used to traverse rural areas where there is no quick access to a CNG fuelling station. Based on maintenance and repair plans and with the new buses, Gooding said, PTSC should have about 300 buses on the road by year-end. At present, just under 200 buses are roadworthy.
On the cannibalisation of buses for spare parts, deputy general manager (DGM) – engineering, Garth Alexander said parts are taken from buses that are no longer serviceable after a decision-making process that involves the management of the corporation. At present most of the vehicles are between ten and 20 years old. The last fleet of buses was bought five years ago.
One of the reasons too why the parts are taken are because of the shortage of foreign exchange to buy new parts which are not available locally.
“It is not a practice of simply taking a bus and cannibalising it. It is the situation that we are in that is pushing us in that direction,” Gooding said.
On the company’s finances, DGM – finances, Davis Ragoonanan said the PTSC received a subvention of $304 million which accounts for 80 per cent of its financing.
Asked about revenue generation, Gooding said the corporation’s strategic and development plans have made provision for that. This does not include an increase in fares, because the service needs improving, he said. The PTSC has not increased its fares in over 20 years.
At present, he said, the corporation is also facing competition from maxi taxis and private taxis and none of its current routes is profitable because the PTSC has not been able to keep its service up to a particular level.
“One of the things we have to do is regain the trust of the commuters,” he said, “and one of the ways we have to do that is to improve our service.”
Plans are in place to maximise the Priority Bus Route and provide a shuttle service in some communities it does not service at present.
Meanwhile, he said, the PTSC has serious problems with rentals and debt collection. They include tenants who rent space at its facilities at City Gate and its terminals along the bus route. Tenants owe between $2 million and $3 million.
Gooding also noted that the PTSC pays some $57 million a year to maxi taxi operators for moving students. While the service is being utilised, he said, there are instances where it is not used to capacity.
“We have not been renewing leases where people give them up,” he said.